- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Allen Lane (23 April 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846142997
- ISBN-13: 978-1846142994
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 58 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 430,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe Hardcover – 23 Apr 2013
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The strongest dose of clarity in written form to have come along in decades. The implications go far beyond physics, to economics, politics, and personal philosophy. Time Reborn places reality above theory in stronger and clearer terms than ever before, and the result is a path to better theory and potentially to a better society as well. Will no doubt be remembered as one of the essential books of the 21st century (Jaron Lanier)
[Praise for Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics]: The best book about contemporary science written for the layman that I have ever read . . . Read this book. Twice (Sunday Times)
Unusually broad and deep . . . his critical judgments are exceptionally penetrating (Roger Penrose)
Brave, uniquely well-informed . . . does a tremendous job (Mail on Sunday)
From the Back Cover
"If you are looking for a bracing alternative vision of physics built from the ground up, Smolin's Time Reborn will take you to the mountaintop." NPR
What is time?
It s the sort of question we rarely ask because it seems so obvious. And yet, to a physicist, time is simply a human construct and an illusion. If you could somehow get outside the universe and observe it from there, you would see that every moment has always existed and always will. Lee Smolin disagrees, and in Time Reborn he lays out the case why.
Recent developments in physics and cosmology point toward the reality of time and the openness of the future. Smolin s groundbreaking theory postulates that physical laws can evolve over time and the future is not yet determined. Newton s fundamental laws may not remain so fundamental. Time Reborn serves as a popular primer and investigation of time, both what it is and how the true nature of it impacts our world.
"He challenges not only Einstein s relativity, but also the very notion of natural laws as immutable truths." Economist
One of the essential books of the twenty-first century . . . Smolin provides a much-needed dose of clarity about time, with implications that go far beyond physics to economics, politics, and personal philosophy. Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
Top customer reviews
Foremost among attempts at its resolution are schemes containing a plethora of universes, possibly an infinitude, of which our local one just happens to be the way it is; if it weren't we would not be here to wonder about these things. Hardly a falsifiable proposition, and therefore not scientific, as Smolin points out.
Mind you, his preferred scenario is also replete with universes, though in his universes a selection mechanism is at work which zones in on our particular cosmic environment as a fruitful one for propagation of more universes via black holes. Cosmic "genes" (fundamental constants, initial conditions) that are good for production of black holes are good also for galaxies, stars, planets and, ultimately, us. This theory is at least capable of making predictions which are falsifiable (or not) using available data sources.
Time is implicit in his hypothetical process. But universal time is associated with the concept of simultaneity which is ruled out by relativity. Smolin and his associates are working on a resolution of this conflict which might, as a bonus, explain non-local aspects of quantum entanglement without invoking the notorious hidden variables which have themselves been pretty well ruled out by clashes with Bell's theorem.
So far, nothing has come of this approach, though the reality of time is supported by the emergence of complexity in a universe which should by rights be heading for equilibrium. The discussion of how this happens through the intervention of gravity and the effective re-setting of entropy's clock when stars light up is fascinating and rewarding to read.
But, apart from a few such illuminating insights, this book makes tedious reading. It suffers from poor style, lack of conciseness in presentation of ideas, sloppy diagrams and a great deal of repetition. The epilogue is a rambling discourse upon life, the universe and everything, including subjects as diverse as ecology, economics, moral values, the origin and nature of consciousness - even global warming. Read this section first and you might save yourself an awful lot of time.
Smolin gives what is, for me, the best analysis of the nature of time from a physics viewpoint in a popular science book I have ever seen. He goes on to describe how most physicists consider that `time does not exist', and comes up with an approach where time becomes real in physics. Now I do have one issue with Smolin here. He says that amongst his non-scientific friends `the idea that time is an illusion is a... commonplace.' This is garbage (or at least his friends are non-representative). The vast majority of people who aren't physicists or philosophers would say `Of course time exists.' However, Smolin sets off to first persuade us it doesn't, using the most common arguments of current physics, and then to show how this is a mistake.
In fact, I think the reason most people wouldn't agree is because it isn't really true that modern physics says time doesn't exist. What it says is that the idea of time as a moving present that heads from the past into the future isn't real, and that there are plenty of concepts in physics like natural laws that appear to be outside of time, and so time isn't as fundamental as people think. Nor, relativity shows us, is it absolute. This isn't the same as something not existing or being an illusion, and I think the physicists who use this label have spent too much time talking to philosophers. Dogs aren't fundamental to the laws of physics, but this doesn't mean they don't exist.
Nonetheless, current mainstream physics does prefer time to be kept in a box - and this is where Smolin breaks out. He shows us that pretty well all of physics is based on the idea that we are dealing with closed systems, where in reality there is no so such thing - meaning that it is quite possible that pretty well all existing physics is just an approximation. And he comes up with a mechanism where time, something that actually ticks by and has a universal meaning, can exist (though at the expense of space being quite so real as we thought).
In doing this, Smolin will have irritated a whole lot of physicists. Some will simply not agree - any string theorists, for example, would dismiss his loop quantum gravity viewpoint. Many others will simply not be able to cope. Physicists are, on the whole, a fairly conservative bunch (with a small `c') - they aren't very good at coming with radical shifts in viewpoint like this. Of course this doesn't make Smolin right, but it is a fascinating bit of speculation.
The book isn't perfect. Smolin's writing style is workmanlike, but suffers from too academic a viewpoint - he doesn't have the common touch. Oddly, it's not so much that he baffles us with science, but rather he baffles us with labels which don't have enough science attached. He has a tendency to use terminology and then say effectively `but you don't need to know what that's all about.' I think popular science is much better if you avoid the jargon and instead explain what lies beneath. Also he uses really scrappy hand-drawn illustrations that I suspect are supposed to make them look more friendly and approachable, but actually makes them practically incomprehensible.
These are minor moans though. Whether or not you agree with the physics, this is a book to get you thinking, awash with ideas and totally fascinating. It isn't the easiest popular science book to understand - it is very much of the `read each sentence slowly, and some times several times' school, yet it is a superb contribution to the field that really puts that cat among the pigeons. Three cheers for Lee Smolin who is, for me, apart from lacking that common touch, the nearest thing we have in the present day to the late, great Fred Hoyle.
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